VW CEO presses for faster decisions, more collaboration

Diess: “We act honestly, openly and earnestly, not behind someone’s back.”

Volkswagen AG’s top managers must commit to faster decision-making and working more closely together to push the German automaker firmly beyond a diesel-emissions scandal and maintain its industry leadership amid wrenching technological change, CEO Herbert Diess said.

“The direction is right,” Diess told some 400 managers at a gathering close to the manufacturer’s headquarters in Wolfsburg. “Now it’s about increasing speed, intensifying cooperation of the brands, coming to the right decisions significantly faster and implementing them vigorously,” he said, according to people who attended the session.

Diess, 59, took over Volkswagen’s top job two months ago from Matthias Mueller, who steered the company through the worst crisis in its history after U.S. authorities in 2015 uncovered engine software that allowed as many as 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide to skirt emissions tests and rules.

VW has managed to largely offset the financial hit of some 26 billion euros ($31 billion), and both earnings and deliveries have returned to record levels.

“With increasing economic success, ethical standards shifted or disappeared in some areas,” Diess said in the speech. “Some apparently viewed themselves as unassailable.”

He outlined 10 guiding principles to ensure ethical conduct while sustaining business growth at the event, which was attended by U.S. court-appointed monitor Larry Thomson.

Diess urged the company’s top brass to pry open a rigid corporate hierarchy that’s been seen as enabling the sweeping emissions violations that stretched almost a decade.

“We act honestly, openly and earnestly, not behind someone’s back,” he said. “We have already said goodbye to the old cylinder-and-horsepower culture.”